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Elletson v. Chalmers Automotive, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 13, 2017

CHALMERS AUTOMOTIVE, LLC, et al., Defendants.


         Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Chalmers Automotive, LLC, Albert J. Chalmers, Michael Ferris, and David Green (collectively, as “defendants”). (ECF No. 8). Plaintiffs Penn Elleston and Sandi Elleston (collectively, as “plaintiffs”) filed a response (ECF No. 10), [1] to which defendants replied (ECF No. 13).

         I. Facts

         The instant action involves a contract for the purchase and delivery of a Mercedes-Benz Luxury Sprinter Van, VIN number WD3FE8CC5FP125554 (the “van”), to Nevada. Chalmers Automotive, LLC (“Chalmers Automotive”) delivers vehicles to purchasers in different states and advertises its services on its website. (ECF No. 1). Ferris is Chalmers Automotive's national sales manager. (ECF No. 1).

         Plaintiffs allege that they paid defendants $97, 500.00 to modify and deliver the van into Nevada. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiffs further allege that defendants made false representations to plaintiffs regarding the van, to which defendants did not have title. (ECF No. 1).

         On April 21, 2017, plaintiffs filed the underlying complaint, alleging eight causes of action: (1) fraud against all defendants; (2) consumer fraud against all defendants; (3) conversion against Ferris, Chalmers, and Chalmers Automotive; (4) breach of contract against Chalmers Automotive; (5) unjust enrichment against Chalmers Automotive; (6) detrimental reliance against Chalmers Automotive; (7) piercing the corporate veil against Chalmers Automotive; and (8) civil conspiracy against Chalmers, Green, and Ferris. (ECF No. 1).

         In the instant motion, defendants move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (ECF No. 8).

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows a defendant to move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that its allegations would establish a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction. See Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). Allegations in plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true and factual disputes should be construed in the plaintiff's favor. Rio Props, Inc. v. Rio Int'l Interlink, 284 F.3d 1007, 1019 (9th Cir. 2002).

         When no federal statute governs personal jurisdiction, the district court applies the law of the forum state. Boschetto, 539 F.3d at 1015; see also Panavision Int'l L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1320 (9th Cir. 1998). Where a state has a “long-arm” statute providing its courts jurisdiction to the fullest extent permitted by the due process clause, as Nevada does, a court need only address federal due process standards. See Arbella Mut. Ins. Co. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 134 P.3d 710, 712 (Nev. 2006) (citing Nev. Rev. Stat. § 14.065); see also Boschetto, 539 F.3d at 1015.

         An assertion of personal jurisdiction must comport with due process. See Wash. Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods Inc., 704 F.3d 668, 672 (9th Cir. 2012). To satisfy due process, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant only where the defendant has certain minimum contacts with the forum state “such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945).

         Two categories of personal jurisdiction exist: (1) general jurisdiction; and (2) specific jurisdiction. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 413-15 (1984); see also LSI Indus., Inc. v. Hubbell Lighting, Inc., 232 F.3d 1369, 1375 (Fed. Cir. 2000).

         General jurisdiction arises where the defendant has continuous and systematic ties with the forum, even if those ties are unrelated to the litigation. See Tuazon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 433 F.3d 1163, 1171 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A., 466 U.S. at 414-16). “[T]he plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant has sufficient contacts to constitute the kind of continuous and systematic general business contacts that approximate physical presence.” In re W. States Wholesale Nat'l Gas Litig., 605 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1131 (D. Nev. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         For example, a state court has general jurisdiction over the state's own residents. The United States Supreme Court recently clarified, however, that general jurisdiction exists only where the defendant is at “home” in the forum state. See Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760-62 (2014).

         “The purposeful availment prong of the minimum contacts test requires a qualitative evaluation of the defendant's contact with the forum state, in order to determine whether [the defendant's] conduct and connection with the forum State are such that [the defendant] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” Harris Rutsky & Co. Ins. Servs., Inc. v. Bell & ...

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